Stella Chiweshe

Double Check

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For Piranha's 100th album, Stella Chiweshe provides a double set. The first disc of Double Check showcases some of the older sounds that influenced the master mbira player, that she played long before taking her instrument to the Western masses. The tracks revolve around drum rhythms, ngoma, and simpler mbira techniques, prior to some of the cross-pollination with the guitar. The vocals are a little deeper than one might expect from Chiweshe, and the mbira playing is more sparse than one would expect. But this is roots music, history songs, ambient mood music from the period prior to the mbira's revival. On the second disc, newer pieces take the stage. The Africanized guitar shows up immediately, as does the marimba. The mbira takes a place behind, showing up only for a couple of tracks. The sound is vastly faster and more upbeat with the more contemporary works of the second half, but the lack of mbira playing seems out of place for a Stella Chiweshe album. The playing is exceptional throughout, and the compositions are of the caliber one would expect from her. Her older albums may prove a better place to start for a beginning listener (and those of Thomas Mapfumo as well perhaps), but this one isn't bad as more of a summarizing release. Give it a listen.

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